Kasim Sumaina and Oluchi Chibuzor
The Minister of Transportation, Rotimi Ameachi, has revealed that there is a remarkable improvement achieved in Lagos-Ibadan standard gauge railway line as against when he last visited a week ago.
To this end, informed that he is almost out of Lagos to focus on the next project starting from Ibadan-Kano.
The minister disclosed this yesterday after an inspection tour with journalists at the Ebute-Metta Office of the China Civil Engineering Construction Corporation (CCECC), alongside Chairman, CCECC Group and Managing Director, Nigerian Railway Corporation (NRC).
According to him, “if you look at the work going on, you will agree with me that if they maintain the manner of work we saw today, I think we should be able to commence activities on the track very soon. As far as I am concerned, mentally, I am almost out of Lagos and want to focus on Kano, Kaduna, Ibadan to Ilorin.
He said: “We showed that a bit by calling them to a meeting with their lawyers and our lawyers. The original time for the contract is May. They made an argument that you cannot not fault that they were given additional work of six months. And if you add additional six months to that time, you are talking about next year. So instead of looking at law, look more on practicality and compel them to speed up.
“By the time we met yesterday I realised it was not important I talked about the law, but the additional work in stations, tracks, under passes, flyovers and literally everything affected the time of completion.”
“Somebody advised me not to talk about the completion date anymore and just continue working. I won’t tell you my conversation with the CCECC Chairman, but let’s wait till February 20th when we will be coming back to inspect.
Speaking on some other factors that have delayed the project, the minister said the Chinese contractor did not continue with the various equipment and manpower they used at the start of the project, noting that government would be compelling them to match the speed of work with the right equipment and manpower at various sites.
The problems with contractors, Amaechi noted “is that they want to maximise profit, so what they do is that if they want to maximise profit, they don’t buy enough equipment believing that even if it takes a longer time to complete the equipment they have will be enough . But if they buy more equipment they save time and buying more equipment means spending more money, It now up to them because it’s provided for in the contract.
“We have been saying that with manpower and equipment, we will deliver on time, but what we are seeing here is that equipment we saw at the beginning are no longer at site. So I will be requesting from their chairman that equipment and manpower commensurate to volume of work that we have. If they do that, we expect in three years time, they should be able to deliver Ibadan to Kano.”
He however said that at the moment, it was not necessary to pursue law but the completion of the project, noting that
with Apapa seaport congestion primarily depending on the rail project, it was purely logistics that have made the congestion to linger over the time.
Speaking in similar vein the Chairman CCECC Group, Zhao Dianlong, stressed the high cost of compensation in the country as obstacles hindering the project completion.
According to him, some of the challenges the company encountered in Nigeria contributed to the delay of the project.
He said, “in china everybody is a Chinese and you do not settle communities. Every stakeholder in the project corporate and it does not tie to settle in host communities.”
Other stakeholders present includes; Managing Director, Nigerian Railway Corporation (NRC), Mr. Fidet Okhiria, and Chairman, Board of Directors, NRC, Malam Ibrahim Al-Hassan-Musa.